WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Type: Camp, Coming of Age
Basic Plot: Vera tells a half-fiction, half biography of her year at camp.
Plot: 4/5 Well Done: The plot, partially based off of true events, has plenty to relate to and sympathize with, as well as enough to make it unique. The emphasis on Russian culture and the isolation a character, both in and out of its own people, is a great one that many people struggle with. It also builds and develops both character and story to a satisfying conclusion.
Graphics: 4/5 Well Done: The graphics were lovely, being proportional and realistic, with just the right amount of detail. It also was consistent throughout the whole of the book.
Moral: 1½/5 No Real Moral: The story’s emphasis was not on really teaching a lesson, merely talk about a person’s life as they go through the growing up process. Little gems about friendship can be seen throughout, but there isn’t a core moral to the story.
Overall: 4/5 Well Done: Overall, this is a beautiful, relatable comic about the awkwardness of becoming an adult and the true horrors of summer camp. I think preteen girls would enjoy it best.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 3½/5 Sexual Jokes and Growing Up Themes: A boy is called “tit head” at least twelve times. A girl’s blood stained underwear is hung on the flag pole. A girl says that she “bet[s] all the boys know where her underwear is.” A girl sees pads and asks what they are. A girl is called “cute” for not having her cycle and not wearing a bra. A nine year old is called “gross” for not wearing a bra. A nine year old girl is shirtless, and girls are shown in swimsuits and once in their bras and underwear changing. A girl catches a boy and girl kissing and hugging in the dark. A doll has a large bust. It shows a girl packing her underwear and swimsuit. Boys pee in the woods and girls are shown using the restroom in the woods or on wood over holes. The girl’s legs are shown to the thigh, but not the back or front. A girl scoots closer to a boy and is told, “just climb in his lap already,” to which the boy responds enthusiastically. A girl is falsely accused of wanting to kiss a picture of a boy and of liking him. A girl tries to look at a boy as cute but can’t.
A girl gives her friend a historical doll’s chamber pot. A boy writes the word “fart” on a blackboard. A ghost story is told about a little boy going to the bathroom, then being sat on and falling into the poop hole. Characters joke that a boy’s father would look in the poop for someone and that they should do that to him. Boys are forced to measure poop holes and another is forced to “bury the latrine.” It is implied that boys used the restroom in their underwear.
Violence: ½/5 Attempted Violence: Two girls lunge at each other.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 3/5 Some Misuse and Brief Mention: God’s name is taken in vain five times. “Geez” is said once. In the author’s real letter, she used the word “sucked” and mentions she was called the “F-word.”
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 3/5 Emotional Themes and Mentioned Content: A girl feels great isolation throughout the book, being the book’s theme. An animal bites a girl and leaves a mark. She thinks she will get rabies and wonders and hopes she bites people before she dies. Her friend asks if it broke skin, and they confirm she does not have rabies. Two girls are implied to have gotten into a fight. There are bruises on their cheeks. People are approached with enemies baring swords in historical pictures. They mention A girl being murdered through torture and beheading, people dying of disease, and people being worked to death. There is a pile of skulls in one such picture. Girls explain what rabies is and tease that if a girl gets it she will either have to get needles or end up shot. It mentions a dog with rabies was shot in a movie. A girl throws up. A man mentions that bears could eat children. A boy is stung twice by wasps, causing a bump. It mentions that a religious icon has a saint’s bone. A boy briefly burns ants. It is mentioned that a boy that took karate put a boy in headlock and kicked an animal to its death. A girl gets bitten by bugs and mentions that horseflies “take chunks out of your flesh.” It is mentioned that “animals carry diseases.” A girl asks if a camp name is a disease. Characters cry and talk about crying. A girl accidentally hits another girl’s arm with wood. Free time is called “dead hour.” A girl thinks that she should be grateful she isn’t going to the gulag. A boy says “they should have pushed” someone. A boy is mentioned to have asthma. In the author’s letter, she mentions her stomach hurt and she had cramps.
Religious Issues: 2/5 Religious Services: The characters in the book are Russian Orthodox. They attend the Orthodox Church. While doing so, they kiss icons, cross themselves, recite things, and take Eucharist. It mentions the liturgy. A girl has a picture of her patron saint in her room. It mentions that there are icons with remnants of the saints in them. The protagonist mentions only liking church for the snacks. People talk about telling ghost stories, and later, one is told about a boy that fell down a toilet hole and became a ghost. A girl draws a picture of the ghost being rescued.
Magic: ½/5 Brief Appearance: A pillow has a mermaid on it.
Others: A girl’s parents are divorced. Sleep stuff has Disney characters on it. Girls play with dolls that are based off of the American Girl series. Barbie is briefly mentioned and played with. Hitler is briefly mentioned. A restaurant has the words Beer Time on it. Girls compare a boy to Lio Dicaprio. It is mentioned that a boy did karate.
Overall: 3/5 Teenage Appropriate: Though there is plenty that would keep a person from reading this at all, those that would read it, I would probably recommend the starting age be fourteen, as the sexual and emotional themes can definitely be a lot.